Getting a tattoo is a huge commitment.
Also, water is wet.
There’s the glaringly obvious commitment of permanently scarring your flesh with ink, but there’s another indirect one that nobody thinks about: If you get a tattoo that's remotely visible, you're committing yourself to a lifetime of discussing it.
My first tattoo is a griffin, a lion-eagle hybrid which in Celtic mythology, the gods would call on for help in dire situations. The griffin is supposed to be extremely powerful, but it's also a very fickle, temperamental creature. If it felt that the gods had evoked it for selfish, unworthy reasons, it would turn on them and it would be on. In a nutshell.
Like a griffin, the human body is powerful but sensitive and if you mistreat it, it'll destroy your mind. At least that's how it works if you have an eating disorder.
I did for a few years, although I never talk about it. Body image has always been a “thing” for me. Barely anyone in my life knows this.
I was born with really large adenoids (tonsils) which gave me the sleep apnea that wreaked havoc on my metabolism until I had them removed at 19. One of my earliest memories was being called “fatso” on the first day of Pre-K. In fourth grade, I was really upset when my mom wouldn't let me go on the (ridiculous, starvation) cabbage soup diet that was taking the women of my block by storm. Sophomore year of high school, I was kicked off the swim team for missing too many practices, all because walking from the locker room the way to the pool in a Speedo was so mortifying.
I don't remember when or why I threw up for the first time, although I do remember the last time. It was during my lunch break about seven years ago, in the bathroom at a Mexican restaurant. With my tie slung over my shoulder and hot sauce burning my throat like battery acid, I thought, “This has to stop.”
And it did.
In the years since then, I've found some of the 75 or so pounds I lost back in the day. I stopped obsessing about food every waking moment. I left the retail world, where I walked 98 miles a day and got an office job. I got older. It happens.
And while it's been a really long time since I've "pulled the trigger," the things that compelled me to do that in the first place still linger. I still have some self-consciousness, even if it's not all-consuming. Like a mosquito bite you can't stop picking at, it may have stopped bleeding but you don't give the scar a chance to fully heal. Burying all of these feelings and never letting any of them out, ever, just makes the problem fester and it becomes that much easier to keep it in the vault.
My story is certainly not something I'd offer up to just any random person who spots a griffin's beak peeking out from beneath my t-shirt sleeve, and I have a few made-up stock answers for when people inevitably ask.
A griffin is on my family's coat of arms.
I rep Gryffindor to the fullest.
My favorite Seinfeld episode is the one where Kramer found the Merv Griffin Show furniture in a dumpster and turned his apartment into a talk show (OK, but that really is my favorite episode).
Male body image doesn't seem to be something anyone really talks about; body image is generally reserved "for girls," after all. I've read literally every book in the New York Public Library on the topic, which sounds like a bigger deal than it is because there are only like six of them — so maybe I should.
I'll still probably tell people my griffin tattoo is a Seinfeld reference, though.
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© Copyright Whatismyhealth, April 23rd, 2017